We get a horde of newspapers at home every morning… and I simply love the way they try to catch my attention with the loudest headlines. This morning was no different. Narang getting a bronze in the Olympics was definitely and comprehensively over-shadowed by those that went on and on and on about the massive power failure that engulfed the entire North, East, and NE States of India…

Dark Night

Worst Power Outage Cripples North India

Worst Nightmare

Grid Failure

Manic Monday

Monday Blues

Traffic Crawls As Signals Fail

Grid Delays 2L Passengers, 200 Trains

Dark Night Rises


I was literally surrounded by these shrieking headlines and didn’t quite realise when I reached ManMohan Singh’s residence and sat facing him in his Study.

‘Sir, do we deserve such dark nights, and in such a quick succession at that?’

‘It is a serious matter and will be taken care of by the right officials at the right time.’ I stared at the PM as he said this because I wasn’t actually expecting him to say anything at all. This meant I had to write a lot because spoken words need to be jotted down unlike largely silent poker-faced looks. I smiled as I thought of his usually poker-faced expression and wondered if the cartoonists of India actually enjoyed drawing him. He agve the same look after all, day in and day out.

‘You want to ask anything else,’ the PM was asking me.

‘Power failures don’t happen here, sir. You wouldn’t know what powerlessness is,’ I said, trying to think fast of some question that he would actually attempt to answer with words. But he seemed quite happy with my statement, and I checked myself from speaking anymore as I could sense he was about to say something.

‘Being powerless is a purely mathematical function,’ he began, ‘where the real value is deducted at the source and what flows on is just a perception.’

‘But sir, what flows on is the output,’ I replied, ‘and that surely is not powerless.’

‘Let me give you a more worthy example,’ said the PM, ‘multiply 1 by 207 and you get 207.’ He was silent for a while as if judging if I had really understood what he was trying to say, and then continued to say, ‘Now if this 1 is not there for the equation, the 207 there still remains 207 but a powerless 207.’

‘The 1, my dear friend, is a feminine number,’ he said in a low voice, ‘and I am multiplying it by 207 congressmen in the parliament. So every time I move ahead with 207 without the 1, I become powerless.’

I could now understand what he was saying and said, ‘That may be so, sir. But why render the entire Nation powerless?’

‘System failure,’ he replied, ‘not a systems failure. It is the 207 who need to first transfer power to this 1, which then decides to be with 207.’

‘So we see that 1 is more powerful than 207,’ I muttered. That was when I heard my wife ask me, ‘Say that a bit louder. Can’t hear you from the kitchen.’

I opened my eyes and found myself surrounded by all the dismal headlines in the day’s dailies and realised that I was interviewing the PM in a reverie. But what he said in the virtual space of my imagination wasn’t fiction at all. It is our PM who has the most profound experience and perception of powerlessness… and what we, the common public experienced because of those massive breakdowns was just a snippet that comes and goes. The real mathematics of power and powerlessness happens only in our parliament!

Power and the PM

Power and the PM

Arvind Passey
02 August 2012


Featured image: Toonsonline (part of the image is taken from a cartoon there)